Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Smoke sends tiny terrier to Hagerman

Dog owners should take care in smoke, heat

Express Staff Writer

Muffy, an 11-year-old teacup Yorkshire terrier, has been evacuated to Hagerman because of smoke from the Castle Rock Fire. Photo by David N. Seelig

She weighs 8 pounds, has a damaged wind pipe, and the smoke is getting to her.

Muffy, a fluffy, brownish teacup Yorkshire terrier, gives you a sad look with her brown eyes but her owner hopes she will happier with a little vacation in Hagerman, away from the smoke coming from the Castle Rock Fire.

"The smoke is really doing it to her," said her owner, Ketchum realtor Brian Faires. "Right now she is having a really tough time getting her breath."

Little Muffy has had a collapsed trachea since birth, and she was too small to operate on, Faires said. He gives her a half a pill every six hours when she starts "huffing" with breathing problems.

"We've got a problem. Let's get her out of here," he decided.

Muffy will stay with Faires' friends in Hagerman until things clear up.

A few local dog owners have called with problems like running eyes and coughing and gagging, said Sara Ratekin, a veterinarian with the Sun Valley Animal Center.

"I did have a call earlier today about a Shih Tzu (a small dog with a long-flowing coat) that was coughing and gagging," she said.

Smaller breeds seem to have problems because they are low to the ground where the dust and smoke is, and they have small windpipes, Ratekin said. She suggested dog owners keep dogs inside except for short outings when needed.

Ratekin suggested that owners can rinse their dogs' eyes with a saline solution if they're running, but not Visine.

In addition to the current smoke problems, heat has been a serious problem for dogs this year, Ratekin said. She has seen four heat stroke cases, and one was fatal.

"It's been a very bad problem this year," she said.

Generally, Ratekin believes it is not a good idea for owners to take their dogs with them when they run or bike. That practice can be particularly bad in smoke and heat, she said.

She suggested owners take their dog's condition and breed into consideration. Older dogs can have problems. Dogs can only cool themselves through their paws and through panting.

"There's a point where they just can't pant enough," Ratekin said.

For Brian Faires, Muffy was a hand-me-down because his mother, the original owner, is in an assisted living facility, and he inherited Muffy. Faires' daughter found Muffy when the little dog was a puppy. Muffy went to Hagerman for five days and then Faires' picked her up on Monday, Aug. 27, and took her to friends in Hailey where she will sit-out the rest of the fire and rest her tiny lungs.

"What do you think," Faires asked Muffy as the dog's ears perked up.

"Usually she's not this mellow," he said. "She's just not feeling too sharp."

Maybe a trip to Hagerman is just what the doctor ordered.

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